It doesn’t matter what his intentions are/were — he was having sexual contact with someone who was unconscious. That’s rape.

“When Nicole Bedera, a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of Michigan, interviewed male college students in 2015, each could articulate at least a rudimentary definition of the concept (of consent): the idea that both parties wanted to be doing what they were doing. Most also endorsed the current “yes means yes” standard, which requires active, conscious, continuous and freely given agreement by all parties engaging in sexual activity. Yet when asked to describe their own most recent encounters in both a hookup and in a relationship, even men who claimed to practice affirmative consent often had not.”

These young men weren’t monsters; they weren’t bad guys and certainly didn’t think of themselves as bad guys — and yet, they were self-reporting that they were sometimes engaged in behaviors that might well come under legal definitions of assault. “In my own interviews with high school and college students conducted over the past two years, young men that I like enormously — friendly, thoughtful, bright, engaging young men — have “sort of” raped girls, have pushed women’s heads down to get oral sex, have taken a Snapchat video of a prom date performing oral sex and sent it to the baseball team. They all described themselves as “good guys.” But the fact is, a “really good guy” can do a really bad thing.”

These guys who said they valued affirmative consent didn’t have intentions to be harmful or abusive. They weren’t consciously thinking, “This girl owes me something so I’m just going to take it.” None-the-less, their social programming around entitlement to female bodies undoubtedly contributed to them disregarding their own conscious beliefs about a woman’s full participation in deciding what kind of sexual experience they were going to have together.

Marital rape wasn’t a crime in all 50 US states until 1993. Prior to that time, there was a wide-spread belief that wives owed husbands sex and that women’s bodies were not under their own control — that it was not even possible to rape your wife. It takes time for cultural narratives to change, even in the face of changing laws. Old ideas tend to hang around in our collective unconscious for a lot longer time then we would care to admit.

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Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

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